June 10


Celebrating 5 years of learning

By Mark Roberts

June 10, 2021

business, leadership, sustainability

Conscious Creatives has reached its 5th birthday and I wanted to write something about my journey as CEO of a small company with big values.

The Past

As I turned 30 I was working for a wonderful coffee business. I focused on marketing as well as roasting, packing and delivering coffee. I even spent weekends at various events making coffee. When they hired me it was with the sole focus of taking the business from stagnant sales to a recognised brand. I believe I did that.

In the lead up to that job I tried my hand at running a few businesses of my own. First was a dance school that I started at 21/22. It was admirable but ego driven. I had no real idea what I was doing and after 2 years I closed it down at a big loss. I also tried my hand at renting inflatable hot-tubs, creating social media content and even a tech start-up. None would last more than a few months.

I mention this because I want you to know that starting Conscious Creatives was a risk. It was a risk financially, for my career, and especially for my mental health. If anyone has experienced trauma with money then you know it’s exceptionally hard. The shame and sense of failure is crippling. I took my £300 savings, bought a website, contacted a couple of potential clients and it took off. Thankfully I was able to work with my boss at the coffee roaster to help me get going. Even though our paths have parted I will always be grateful for that act of kindness.

I remember being told that 80% of businesses never get to year 5. It was always a goal to get the business to this point. To have paid my own wages for 5 years feels like a huge achievement. I had a lot of support along the way. From parents, friends, clients, staff (past and present) and more. Everyone forms a part of this story and this success.

The Present

Over the last year or so while navigating extremely challenging circumstances we have managed to grow a little, welcoming our 3rd member of staff. We are however not safe yet. I am still forecasting and managing our cash flow harder than ever. I am pinpointing when we need to hit our sales targets in order to make it to year 6. We can never take for granted the sometimes overwhelming pressures on all businesses right now.

Integrity is a large part of how we identify success at Conscious Creatives. It’s not always about the KPIs my accountant likes to see. We have strong core values in our organisation and living up to those is as important as making money. It is these values that have led to opportunities I didn’t have on my list to have achieved until much later on.

In November 2019 we successfully joined the United Nations Global Compact, which you can read more about in our blog here. Conscious Creatives is currently the only business in Cornwall that is part of the UNGC. We are among the smallest of organisations to be part of this network and have been able to contribute because of our values. We are able to demonstrate how we hold ourselves accountable and then share that with much larger organisations to learn from.

Then last week, on my 35th birthday, the 5 year anniversary of Conscious Creatives, I was invited to join the Advisory Group for the UNGC. I and 19 other members are there to provide strategic guidance to the Network Chair, Board of Trustees, and Network Secretariat. This is a huge honour and a reflection of our impressive commitment to the 10 Principles of the UNGC and the 17 Global Goals.

For me, having a framework like the Global Goals is incredibly important for sustainability. One thing I see a lot in our home Duchy of Cornwall is a focus on environmentalism. The Global Goals bring the concern for our climate into a framework that also includes poverty, education, health & well-being, economy, transport, cities, gender equality, biodiversity and more. I believe this is the real mark of a sustainable organisation. Yes they are on target for Net-Zero by 2030 but they are also ambitious about tackling all systemic problems.

To be able to influence how we as a network engage organisations of all sizes and types to align with this framework is truly exciting. I look forward to sitting with larger organisations and explaining that SMEs have a lot to say. There is a lot that can be learned from how we operate.

The Future

The next 5 years are likely to be as challenging and rewarding. Not everything will go our way and we will have good days and bad. I am determined to continue to find a way to keep spreading our message. That sustainability can be simple, possible and beautiful.

That regardless of how big an organisation you are, you can take meaningful steps to make a better future for all. You can take responsibility for your impact and shape it to be aligned with your values.

I will continue to learn how to be a better executive. How to find my voice in these opportunities and steer the organisations I work with. Whether that’s the UNGC or at home in my local community where I volunteer my time. I look forward to collaborating with others on big sustainability issues and finding wins along the way. I still remain hopeful that we can turn the challenges of people, planet and economy around. That we will find the political will to implement the solutions we know can work.

Expanding our range of partners is very important for our future too. Right now we have a great relationship with the Cornwall Wildlife Trust and will soon be announcing and launching our new joint conscious networking event. We are also members of the Surfers Against Sewage 250 Club and acknowledge that we need to do more to lift up their important voices in ocean conservation.

In order to drive change across the Global Goals that we don’t have a direct impact on we are looking to work with organisations that fill our gaps. My vision is to create a network of different organisations mapped against the Global Goals that we can all support. Collaboration is key to success in sustainability. I hope to make it easy for our clients and friends to find partners that increase their positive impact in the world.

Mostly, I look forward to writing a blog after a decade of business and sharing how we have helped change the world for the better. By then we will have several years of our own Impact Report and will be closer to our own sustainability goals. Hopefully, the entire world will be too.

About the Author

Mark is CEO of Conscious Creatives. A passionate believer in global policy supporting local action. His passion is realising the Global Goals. In his spare time, he can be found on the coast walking, swimming or surfing.

Mark Roberts

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